07/10/06 6:53 PM ET
Tejada appreciates All-Star opportunity
Orioles shortstop all about playing for the love of the game
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
In 2004, he won the Century 21 Home Run Derby at Minute Maid Park in Houston by edging Astros outfielder Lance Berkman in the final round, 5-4. Last year, Tejada was given the Ted Williams Award as the game's MVP after going 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs to help the American League defeat the National League, 7-5, at Comerica Park in Detroit. How does Tejada explain his success during the Midsummer Classic?
"I respect this game a lot," Tejada said. "When I was a kid, I watched the All-Star Game a lot. I always wanted to get the opportunity to play in one All-Star Game. I did it. ... In any opportunity I get in the All-Star Game, I try to have [as much fun] as I can."
For awhile, it appeared Tejada wasn't having fun being an Oriole, asking to be traded last offseason because he was sick of losing a lot of games the previous two years. But before he arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for Spring Training, he cleared the air and said that he wanted to remain a member of the Orioles.
The Orioles are still struggling in the American League East, but it hasn't affected Tejada's play on the field during the first half of the 2006 season. Tejada leads the team in almost every offensive category, including batting average (.315), home runs (17) and RBIs (62).
He also is the iron man of the club. Tejada has played in 1,008 consecutive games. The right-handed-hitting veteran downplays his role with the streak.
"I'm not doing this because I want to break any records. I'm just doing this because I love to play baseball every day," Tejada said. "I feel I can do better. That's why I don't take days off. I'm really proud to play so many games like that."
Tejada, who is playing in his fourth All-Star Game, finds it strange to be the Orioles' lone representative. He felt catcher Ramon Hernandez, pitchers Chris Ray and Kris Benson, and third baseman Melvin Mora were worthy candidates. In fact, Tejada told Hernandez not to feel bad about not going to Pittsburgh. Hernandez is having a career year, hitting .273 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs.
"He was unbelievable in the first half --- the way he [caught] and the way he played," Tejada said. "Like I told him, 'You are an All-Star for me. The only thing is, I'm not the manager and I'm not the one who picks the players.' I told him he had to think like he had a great year. 'Don't be hard on yourself because you didn't make the All-Star team.' He has to continue to play hard, and one of those years he is going to make it."
Tejada said he doesn't consider himself the reigning All-Star MVP. Tejada wants other players to feel what he felt last year. He won a new car for his efforts.
"This is another game," he said. "I hope somebody else gets it. It a great feeling when somebody wins the MVP. I hope somebody gets that feeling."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.